You're gonna need someone, during development and beyond, who can be "that" guy. Someone who focuses on what the business needs or needs to do, who will work the numbers, make budgets, find loopholes, keep their eyes on the prize. For TOO DX, I am "that" guy. We call me the Business Developer.
No “I” in team
I work with some amazingly talented people. Kareem is a great sound designer and he and I worked well together in IndieCade. He goes above and beyond what someone who was “just” a contractor would ever do. He’s becoming a really great friend, and he’s awesome. Auston is a phenomenal coder and designer. He might not be the best at any one thing, but he works like a dog with a dedication and passion that is humbling to see and something that I hope someone will say about me some day. Don (of Imagos Films) is a great story guy, brings a ton of passion and energy to products and productions and has a great eye for bringing life to the game. A lot of his own time and energy has gone in to making Sportsball feel like a world, and it was an honor to be able to expand on what he gave us to work with narratively. nickelPUNK composed the music just how we wanted it, and has been a great supporter when we are local, helping us out at events, spreading the word among people he knows and letting me crash at his place (for about a month) when I made the abrupt and unplanned decision to move out here.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to accept that I actually contribute to the team. I do a little of this, and a little of that, emails, charts, letters, writing, funding… but it never feels like things I do bear fruit. It’s hard. It’s stressful. It makes me feel like I’m not helping. It makes me feel like an “I”, not part of the team. It’s also a personal problem. Because, guess what? It turns out “I” am necessary.
Sounds scary and ominous but what is business development? It’s simple: I look out for the company’s best interests. I look for ways to grow. I do the legal and financial stuff. I file documents with state and local governments. I track our expenses (mostly in a general way, although VERY specifically come tax time) and I’ll be monitoring our sales. I do budgets and charts and look at tax tables. I stress about a completely different set of things than Auston does.
And someone has to. Because if you don’t you’ll be blindsided. Or, unprepared at least. Let’s take Kareem. I’m not well versed enough in tax law, and how independent contractors function to actually give him proper tax advice. But I did bring up that if we do well, he’ll have a chunk of taxes that he will have to pay – because income isn’t free, sadly. I talked about how there will be things he will need to think about, how it could bump him up one to several tax brackets, how he might wish to pay it, etc. He hadn’t thought of it, really, as something other than a vague future idea. My ultimate advice was to go see a tax professional – I’m not that good! But it was worth talking about, worth saying to him, because it freaking matters. It matters when the government sic’s an $18,000 tax bill on you because you didn’t pay. It matters that you know your options for setting up a business. It matters that someone can go through and work the numbers to figure out what is best for you.
If you follow our twitter at all, you’ll have seen that I posted some pictures of things I was working on during a red eye to NH that I took recently. It was a progressive table of how much we would make, what we would owe, what our taxes would be etc. etc. based on sales volume for Sportsball (something I’ll talk about later!).
Why was I doing this? Because I was wondering if I’d fucked us over by making us an L.L.C., operating as a partnership, as opposed to a C-Corp. Because the rules for both are different. Because Auston and I could (hopefully!) be facing a massive tax bill come next year. Because it matters and someone needs to do it. Honestly, it sounds like rich people problems but it’s seriously important. Enough to bold and all caps. YOU HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION TO WHERE THE MONEY IS GOING AND WHERE IT NEEDS TO GO. That’s my job. If you don’t have someone like me, you have to think about that in addition to whatever else you do – and it sucks.
Why my job is awesome … and awful
I love what I do, in some respects. That 3AM table building? I was very happy to do it; it made me content and relaxed and helped me tune out the traumatized 1 year old behind me who couldn’t understand why its head hurt so badly. I have a whole folder full of budgets, and options, and repayment plans and other excel spreadsheets about fun things. I love numbers and I get to play with them all day long, or I get to show our game to people and get them amped, or I get to talk with people at top tier companies I’ve respected my whole life and work together with them on projects.
But eyeballing the finances means that I have to stay on top of what we can and can’t do. I have to be able to explain the costs of something to anyone at any time (which I’m fairly willing to do, transparency being my favorite thing) but especially to Auston. I have to be able to listen to what my team wants and make it a reality, or at least figure out how we can do it. It means logistics and long nights, lots of listening. It means emailing Gawker to ask if they can make a deal, even though they say that they don’t make deals on their website. It means hearing no a lot, and worse, saying no a lot. It means stretching the dollars to the breaking point. Sometimes it means that I have to be stubborn and deal with issues we are having with people. Sometimes it means I have to be the mean cop, while Auston gets to be everyone’s friend. It means that when someone is showing me something, I have to, in the back of my head, ask myself if my brand benefits from associating with this. Regardless of my feelings on the matter, I have to put the company first.
That sucks. There are other things that are hard: nights of emailing people to no response, trying countless things on Twitter, Reddit, Buzzfeed, Facebook, direct marketing, Twitch, YouTube, talking to people, all to no avail. It means going to conventions and being passed over constantly. It means keeping everyone’s spirits up when shitty things happen (but your team will help you when you’re down; that’s why it’s a team!) and it means that when things are hard, and tempers flare, you have to have the plan or the vision firmly fixed in front of you and keep your head up.
That’s what my job is. That’s my point in the company. That’s what makes me vital. And it might have to be you. It might be you who deals with the financial part. It might be you who needs to not exhibit and go track down the Microsoft rep to chat with, even though talking business is the last thing you want to do right then. It might be you who has to come up with a carefully measured response to something someone says. If you don’t think about it, it might be you unexpectedly.
We all matter
Every member of my team has input on everyone else’s job. No one isn’t allowed to express an opinion or a thought, we discuss matters internally that we will refuse to address externally, either due to split opinions or a fear of toxicity (addressed in the next post). We make each other better, because we know that the person who is doing the job is the right person. I trust Auston to code and design, he trusts Don to write and present, Don trusts Kareem to make the sounds juicy, Kareem trusts nickelPUNK to augment those sounds with a slamming soundtrack and nickelPUNK trusts me to look after the money and the legal stuff – and so does everyone else (and I think they are all tops, and am amazed by what they do). I’m honored to be able to work with all the people I work with, and humbled that they trust me so much. I’ll keep being “that” guy, so they don’t have to.